Monday, 14 January 2008


Amid the finger pointing, accusations and counter accusations between the top dogs on Kenya’s political scene, I dare say; at times it hurts to be Kikuyu. I can’t say I had not been warned. A colleague over here, I mean here in America, told me before the elections that if he were Kikuyu and owned any land in the Rift Valley, he would sell it before the elections-that at a time when I thought it would be best to invest in Kenya because of the strong positive message that a democratic election would send to the markets. It’s still credible to me that the ethnic cleansing was not a random act of violence by ‘wananchi’ against Kikuyus, but premeditated mass murder.

Thankfully, this only happens to those Kikuyus who settled in the ‘wrong’ places in Kenya. Well, until they come ‘back home’ to Central province. As I write this, my mother has to repeat something that my other relatives did in 1992 and 1997-welcoming some of our relatives from Burnt Forest who, as per our conversation on the phone yesterday, have been through the kunyarirwo (devastation, total destruction) yet again. But they seemed happy to be alive and have thayu (you really have peace? I almost asked). It’s very stressful just to think about. It is expected that the kids will join some schools somewhere since theirs have been burned to the ground. I don’t know how long it’ll take them to go back this time-I am hopeful that they will. And that is the Kenya I am going back to in August. Right now it is so tempting to remain here bila makaratasi so I can continue sending home a hundred bucks, a hundred and fifty on a good weekend, once in a while. Not that I’m planning to.

What I am yet to understand is why ‘we’ deserve this kind of treatment from ‘wananchi’ every five years since 1992 (except in 2002, but I’ll come back to that). One of the arguments floating around is that since 1963, Kikuyus have enjoyed socio-economic privileges that do not exist for other tribes in Kenya. There must be two types of Kikuyus. And I, and all the Kikuyus in my entire extended family, the two villages I’ve lived in, and all my Kikuyu friends must belong to the unprivileged type. Or maybe I just move in the wrong circles. But still, no one will stop to think about this if a politician thinks otherwise.

Land: In my opinion, that’s the main issue. Kikuyu people traditionally feel strong attachments to land. It’s almost spiritual, and in some cases it is spiritual. Would tribal clashes be over if Kikuyus didn’t venture outside Central? Central Kenya is only so big and its carrying capacity can only accommodate so many farmers. Those who could moved to other regions, including and especially the Rift Valley. I’m not aware of restrictions against people settling and owning land wherever they so wish in Kenya, if it is done in a just manner. Buying land outside your ancestral home is fair and just. I don’t know how many Kikuyus own land in Kibera and Mathare slums, though, where the violence started. It was poor people killing poor people simply because they come from the adui wetu tribe, as per some leaders. So, land is only part of the problem. My brother will definitely have to move his small business to a more Kikuyu-friendly area. Poor guy, he hasn't been at it for weeks. He looks too much like a Kikuyu to even think about going back to those joints!

Business: The selective memory again- Kikuyus don’t dominate business in Kenya, Indians, and now foreign investors do. Still this is no reason to burn down whole businesses and burn Kikuyus’ homes.

Government: This is where Kibaki made a major goof especially after the referendum. At one point a fellow teacher commented that the cabinet ministers’ list read like a graduation list. But, guys, cabinet posts don’t go to Kikuyus, they go to Kibaki’s cronies. And it really sucks that you all see GEMA as Kikuyu when it’s the only convenient way to see things. AND, we had one undisputed 5-year‘Kikuyu presidency’ between when I came to earth and when we had Kibaki as president. Compared to Moi’s 24-years, why does the bitterness in 2007/2008 feel like it has been brewing for ages, why?? Pre-NARC, I had never heard, “Kalenjin ni adui yetu” or any reference to “Kalenjins have led for a long enough time”.

Someone argues that even if Raila and Kibaki made up in public, the hate crimes wouldn’t go away? I beg to differ. Because the ghost of tribal clashes did not visit in 2002 when Raila said "Kibaki Tosha" and Moi and Uhuru were an item. Kenyans love peace, but only at the politicians call. Therefore:

1) We Kenyans must learn to think for ourselves and not see things only through the politicians’ lenses.
2) Politicians need to use their influence for the good of Kenya, not just to get themselves in office.
3) Should we redefine the concept of democracy? So that it's not just pure numbers that determine who wins? Because as long as there is a numerical tribal majority -call it Kikuyu /GEMA or whatever-in a country where tribes vote as blocs for ‘one of our own’, __________fill in the blanks.
4) We clearly need institutions in place that ensure that its not a winner-takes all situation.